The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence (IGGI) is the world's largest PhD research programme aimed at games. Our mission is to unlock the full potential of games research to contribute to wellbeing, prosperity, and science by training the next generation of leading researchers, designers and developers in games.
Based at the University of York, Queen Mary, Goldsmiths, and Essex, IGGI students undertake a four year PhD in impact-oriented games research, working closely with more than 80 partner organisations in the games industry and society. IGGI students advance games with research, software, patents, algorithms, data analytic techniques and creative works across a wide range of areas, from game AI and analytics to player experience and game design to games and play for health, education, or research.
Game Research that Matters
IGGI embraces a diversity of research approaches and topics: from humanistic studies of how autobiographical games convey meaning or designerly work on using stage magic in game design to rigorous trials of games for mental health or creative play with machine learning and advancing AI techniques for real-time MOBA play. At the heart of IGGI’s approach to research are two principles:
- fostering dialogue between research and practice: we engage game creators, players, and other stakeholders throughout our research to ensure our work is inclusive, responsible, and makes a positive impact on the real needs of people and organisations
- fostering dialogue between engineering and human sciences: we believe innovative and responsible game research happens in interdisciplinary work that brings together perspectives from engineering (AI, data science, game-making) and humanities and behavioural sciences (HCI, psychology, design, game studies)
While we welcome work across many themes, IGGI particularly focuses on two lines of work:
- Intelligent Games: Unlocking the value of research for the entertainment games industry, creating new engaging gameplay agents as well as new data- and AI-assisted tools and methods for making games and studying players
- Game Intelligence: Unlocking the value of games for wellbeing, learning, and science by advancing the design of applied or ‘serious’ games and gamification, the use of game data to understand the human condition, and our understanding of the positive and negative uses and effects of games.
Engaging Industry and Society
To foster dialogue between research and practice, IGGI draws on a network of more than 80 partner organisations, spanning industry bodies (UKIE, TIGA, British Games Institute), developer studios (e.g. Sony Interactive Entertainment, Bossa Studios, Stainless Games, Square Enix, Ubisoft Massive, Creative Assembly, Tactile Entertainment, Riot Games, Electronic Arts, Revolution Software), industry suppliers (e.g. deltaDNA, Spirit AI, Player Research), advocacy groups (e.g. Women in Games, AbleGamers), research centres at other universities and organizations (e.g. Microsoft Research, Nokia Bell Labs, UC Santa Cruz, UC Irvine, GeorgiaTech, Utrecht University, Monash University, NC State University, University of Waterloo, Tampere University), and media organisations (e.g. Screen Yorkshire, BBC).
IGGI students spend at least eight weeks working with one or more of our partners to understand the realities and challenges of applying research in practice, tackle real-world problems, and make a positive difference. Beyond the members of our partner network, IGGI students have also worked with e.g. Splash Damage, Media Molecule, Google DeepMind, Prowler, Sue Ryder, BT, and many others, and IGGI is always looking for new partners to join our network.
A Unique Community and Network
PhD research is often solitary. Not so in IGGI: PhD students can collaborate with more than 70 other current PhD students and 70 leading academics all working on games. IGGI is closely linked to the Digital Creativity Labs, XR Stories, WEAVR, and the Arena Research Cluster at the University of York, cutting-edge research and development centres for games, immersive storytelling, and esports, and the Game AI Research Group at QMUL, one of the largest research groups for technical games research world-wide. PhD students form a lasting cohort with everyone joining the programme in the same year, from joint training to working together in shared offices, and IGGI runs regular local and remote events to connect students further across sites and cohorts.
Every year, students co-organise the IGGI conference showcasing their research to academia and industry, and participate in the Global Game Jam. Students also travel to major industry and academic conferences like Develop, CoG, CHI, CHI Play, or FDG to network and disseminate their work. Finally, students co-organise research workshops on joint topics of interest with leading researchers and practitioners, and can conduct research visits with IGGI's academic partners abroad.
A Rigorous Training Programme
Over their four years of study, IGGI students receive a full year's worth of training to prepare them to do excellent and impactful research. In their first year, students take four 'core' training modules:
- Game Design: Students learn how to conceive, design, prototype and playtest their own games, be it for entertainment or a 'serious' purpose like health, education, or research.
- Game Research & Data: Students learn various methods for empirically studying games and players, including standard HCI methods and data science techniques for gaining insights from big data sets.
- Game Development & AI: Students learn how to develop game prototypes using standard industry game engines, explore novel interaction techniques and interfaces, and the state of AI applications in games, like AI opponents and collaborators, procedural content generation, or player modelling.
- Impact & Engagement: Students learn how to engage industry, players, and other societal stakeholders early on in their research, how to conduct responsible research and innovation that is overall beneficial to human wellbeing, and how to present their work online, to the media, and industry.
These formal training modules are complemented by regular events and workshops, academic and industry knowledge exchange, and a wide range of optional modules depending on each students’ needs.
An Inclusive and Responsible Environment
IGGI wants to be a positive agent of change for more inclusive, diverse, and responsible games and research communities. We especially welcome students from underserved communities, celebrate diversity in our events, and work with e.g. Women in Games and BAME in Games to reach out to students from diverse backgrounds. We work hard to increase the intellectual, ethnic, and gender diversity of our supervisor pool so students can find the right fit for them. We support flexible training and work arrangements to fit students’ family and health situations. We work with leading figures in responsible innovation and rigorous, open science media effects research to ensure our training and research critically engages with the potential positive and negative impacts of games and research innovations.
Curious if IGGI could be a place for you? Then contact us us or have a look at how to apply – we'd love to hear from you.
A Word from Peter Cowling, IGGI Director